11/07/2019 at 11:03 am #70247
We found this in my in-laws garage rafters. Looks to me like a large print plate – but I’ve never seen one so large and don’t know how it is used. Can someone enlighten me what it is and what it might be worth?
It stands about 4′ tall x 3′ wide.0
11/07/2019 at 11:14 am #70248
11/07/2019 at 11:18 am #70249JayKeymaster
- Location: Virginia
Not an exert on print plates, but I’d think the real value is the nostalgia that anyone local to you has for Ballard’s Insurance.
Beyond the nostalgia, seems like a cool item to hang on the wall.0
11/07/2019 at 11:39 am #70254scott2Participant
- Location: Merida, Mexico
REALLY cool piece! Personally before I sold that I would prints some shirts using that and some fabric paint.0
11/07/2019 at 12:01 pm #70258
That is a plate for a flatbed printing press. Search for Vandercook Presses. Been around since 1903, I think. There were competitors later which your Google research will show.
That plate is one of the larger ones I have seen but think the larger Vandercook would handle it.
The plate was laid face up, flat down on the press bed and “locked into place” maybe even inside of a chase, but this is so large don’t if a chase could be used. Once locked into place a few press proofs would be run to get the exact positioning on the printing substrate [material].
The plate is inked by a series of several rollers that got inked on one far end of the press by spinning up against an ink pan. Then the rollers would traverse all the way across the plate and back to the top. This action deposited ink onto the high part of the plate. Called relief inking, not intaglio inking. Different method used for engraving and etchings.
The material, usually large poster board or cardboard sheets would be laid on the press “in register”, by butting up against 3 guides. Two on the sides and one at the short top end. These guides assured that each sheet that was hand feed onto the press, directly on top of the plate was all in the exact position on each sheet.
Next the press would cycle, and several non-inked rollers would pass over the back side of the sheet to be printing and “press” that sheet down with a pre-tested set pressure and return to their starting position. The operator then lifted by hand the sheet up and off the plate / press bed and when flipped over there would be a “correct reading” impression of the plate. That sheet was placed on what is called the “rack” a rolling series of stacked up wire shelves. Starting at the bottom with all racks flipped up, the first sheet was laid face up on that first bottom rack and the next rack lowered down. Most racks i ever worked with decades ago were either 50 or 100 racks per rolling unit. Get too high and you can’t reach the top racks [shelves] with a small ladder. Short operators or helpers had a tough time and usually stopped as far as they could reach up.
Now the operator starts the whole process over again, by engaging the press [long ago by hand pulling the rollers] and in later years by stepping on a foot pedal to activate another cycle. Inking rollers make a pass over the raised area to ink the plate, a sheet is placed in register over the plate, the pressure rollers make a pass, the operator lifts and places on the drying rack and then repeats this cycle.
Sheets this large were mostly hand fed due to lack of auto sheet feeding on the early, giant models.
The operator could usually do about 75 to 125 impressions per hour depending on the material and difficulty in handling.
At the end of the run, the press rollers and plate would be cleaned up with mineral spirits and dried down good, covered with a cardboard sheet with a slight layer of oil to prevent rusting and stored for a future reprint.
The cut-out corners were done later after possibly this client [the insurance company] no longer was a customer or were finished with that product. The print shop, then possibly needed some wood pieces that exact height that this “old-no defunct plate” was and cut two sections out of it to use to build up and fill spaces inside of the chase for a job that required a smaller plate or advertising cut as this type of plate is called.
The cut out pieces were used as “furniture” which is what the fill in wood pieces inside of a chase is called and the centering of the new smaller late for a new customer or job and filling in the blank spaces within the chase is called “locking up”. Little small wedges called “quoins’ pronounced “coins” were used along with a “T” handle key to twist and apply pressure to hold the place inside of the chase in position throughout the press run. Same technique is used for die cutting on a Thompson or kluge Press.
The plate is deep etched as a wrong reading image so when it is transferred [Offset Printing] in modern terms, comes out “correct reading” on the finished piece.
What was printed may have been trade show signs, large lobby posters or advertising pieces. As an insurance company I wouldn’t think they were printing any type of boxes or packaging materials.
So, I know there are a few older printers here on SL from some of my past discussions, so maybe some of them can correct me or add to the knowledge.
BTW look at the side edge of the plate. Do you see two  layers? If so that would be a metal plate maybe about an 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick [depending on the depth of the etched letter] and then mounted onto a wood [usually maple] base to make one, the whole thing lighter and easier to handle and get into and out of the press and also to bring the whole thickness up to what is printers standard type high requirement [a universal standard] of approx. .923″ to .937″ high.
The Vandercook presses are really a mechanized version of the Gutenberg Press which was the first press ever built and used to print the first Bibles ever printed.
All this info. can be Goggled and most found on Wiki.
Many people collect old “advertising cuts”, which we have talked about before here on SL and you can search Scavengerlife for those. Many people collect old press parts and many old presses like the Kluge and Thompson are still in use. I have printed millions of sheets through both.
A plate that size would certainly be a nice piece to mount on the lobby wall of an older printing company still in business, a museum of printing items and history, or even a newer digital age printing or publishing company just showing history on its walls.
So, the price you select would probably depend on if a collector wanted it bad enough, or an old employee of that insurance company and what they had in mind to do with it, if decor or what. In a lobby it would probably get framed up which would add to the buyer’s final cost.
Maybe even research and see if that insurance company or a newer, modern subsidiary or offshoot still existed and contact them, or the Chamber of Commerce of the town the Insurance was started in and see if they may be interested. Who knows?
We used to pay to have cutting dies with blades inserted at about $.93 per square inch. Now this is a printing plate that is etched, not a ruled die cutting plate. But based on just buying that in its day would be over a thousand dollars. It is approx. 1,728 square inches. but damaged.
Maybe work out a price from there, go high and take a few offers [if any] and adjust from there. Then the buyer or you guys figure out how you want to handle shipping, Free or Calculated which you can figure out with Flippertools.com by ScavengerLife member Josh.
Good luck with your venture and don’t rush and have some fun learning about the history of printing prior to the digital age.
Mike at MDC Concepts, Inc.
MDC Galleries and Fine Art in Atlanta
- This reply was modified 6 months, 4 weeks ago by MDC Galleries & Fine Art.
11/07/2019 at 12:15 pm #70263
Great ideas, Mike. Thanks for all the information. You da man!0
11/07/2019 at 12:37 pm #70267Old DadParticipant
- Location: Missouri
Mike, thanks for the walk down memory lane. My first job out of high school was making steel rule dies (working for Hallmark Cards), and I continued on through a series of related jobs over 20 years or so to become the sales and marketing manager for a company that used steel rule dies to cut out silkscreened faceplates for electronic equipment. That was in the mid-80s. As you said, die-cutting is much the same process without the inking, we used Thompson and Kluge machines. We also did some embossing using the same machines.0
11/07/2019 at 12:59 pm #70270
Yep Old Dad: think it was you and I who maybe spoke about the older letter presses before. As I mentioned further down here, that we moved on to screen printing industrial labels, dials and face plates, then die cut them out, same you you, then shipped to our customers.
We did car dashboards, radio and clock face plates and dials, rulers, printed circuits, micro wave and over fronts, flexible touch membrane multi layered switches, electrolumnescent panels and safety signs, decals for many mfg. industrial machines all using screen printing [silk screen is the older term], used the Thompsons and Kluges to not only die cut, but as you to emboss and also do consecutive numbering.
Later on we as we automated most operations we started doing displays and larger format. Did display for Stanley hardware, Michelin Tire, Walmart, Home depot, Delco Batteries, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell [think of all those dangling mobiles and static clean window decals that you can look through from the inside], of course Coca-Cola, Marlboro signs and tons of Gas pump toppers. A whole industry out there that offset litho couldn’t do because they couldn’t run rigig plastic sheets through presses that required flexible sheets to bend around rollers and of course our fine art limited edition prints in our Atelier Div for regional and NY artists.
But als a thing of the past. Now like everyone else here, I sit behind a computer all day selling old, used, discarded items from others junk and reselling it online.
As the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz said…. “What a world, what a world. I am melting, melting”.
mike at MDCGFA0
11/07/2019 at 12:08 pm #70259
Good idea, scott2. We had considered that but the image is so large that I’m not sure it would fit on a shirt. Thought about trying to print some big posters with the chicken but I’m not sure how to do that without the ink drying on the plate too quickly.
Jay, we tried to find some local Ballard’s Insurance but came up dry. I just looked up some businesses on Facebook that are called Ballard Insurance and am trying to pitch them on purchasing it… We’ll see.0
11/07/2019 at 12:09 pm #70260
Wow Mike. Thanks for the information. That tells me a lot!0
11/07/2019 at 12:44 pm #70268
You are welcome. Had a few minutes to do a brain dump before starting next project. Prepping tax info for year end.
As far as the T-Shirts go, you could shrink the image down a bit. About 12″ x 17″ is a preferred size on T-shirts to keep the image from wrapping under the arm pits or from tucking under the belted waste line [if tucked] if not then longer is OK. But you could do a step and repeat design and do an over-all pattern.
As far as ink drying no problem. A small can of “etching ink” can be gotten from Dick Blick Art Supply. You can also get a small tube of “extender”.
You will also need a rubber roller called a brayer. Get a sheet of glass or plexiglass about 12×12. Open the ink, use a 2″ wide putty knife and scoop out about a table spoon of ink and scrape onto the palette [glass]. Then also squirt out some of the clear extender. This will “loosen up” the ink as will as act as a retarder. better still buy some retarder also.
Now take the putty knife and “work” that ink. Mash it down, scrape up, flop it over, still smashing it out. Work that ink up vigorously for about 5 minutes to mix the retarder-extender into it and also and heat from the mashing process. That friction heat “loosen” the ink.
Now take a brayer [rubber roller] with a handle and start rolling that ink up onto that roller, add ink as needed, until you can hear a “tack-tacky-sticky sound] It is sort of an acquired touch or feel. In any case then apply the ink to the plates high areas only by carefully rolling the ink across all those letters and design.
Next place you sheet [I suggest only using a thick sheet like poster boards], thin sheets will crushed and crease down around the letters. Once your board material is placed over the plate, then gently rubber all over the back of the sheet with a old, waded up rag, use a clean brayer or a kitchen rolling pin. Anything to apply even pressure across the back. Then lift up the poster board and place face up to dry. But as soon as you lift up the sheet and place somewhere, do start to ink the plate again. If the ink start to feel like it is drying, keep adding a little more ink, extender and retarder and keep a nice, gooey, sticky paste on your palette and roller and ink the plate as quickly as you can. Rinse and repeat for 125 impressions, dry, sign and you have a limited edition print.
Wash up with mineral spirits and oil the plate. OH BTW. You will need to clean that plate BEFORE you ever start to use it. Sort of restore it. Use fine steel wool and Liquid Wrench Oil to cut all the rust. You have to sort of de-rust it and also get out all the pitting. try not to grind any low spots into the wide flat areas or it won’t ink correctly and will then leave white void areas in your printed image.
Look up how to print wood cuts or linoleum block prints. Same technique.
BTW, Once you get a good clean, black on white image, you can take that to a T-Shirt print shop, have them reduce the image and get you a film positive which they in turn can burn you a silk screen stencil on a frame and either make T-shirts for you or give you the frame and you can buy the squeegee and ink and supplied and do it for your self. I did it for 35 years ++ and built a whole business with 30+ employees in the Screen Printing Business. Only we stopped doing shirts the first year or two and began to specialize in very fine line, tight tolerance industrial work, printed circuits, pressure sensitive decals and industrial face plates to the tune of several million dollars a year in early 1990’s.
Just a thought. You might like printing as a side jig or hobby and you can make your own products or have your images printed on demand by several companies who do that for sellers. Etsy is full of print on demand products all from home grown artists who have their designs, slogans or saying printed on everything they can get their hands on.
Mike at MDCGFA1+
11/07/2019 at 1:00 pm #70271
Found some more information. Apparently this was from Ballard’s Feeds. I see some feed sacks with a similar image printed on them. Perhaps this plate would be for large feed sacks???
Here’s some information on the company…Ballard & Ballard
- This reply was modified 6 months, 4 weeks ago by okieopie.
11/07/2019 at 1:20 pm #70274Old DadParticipant
- Location: Missouri
Bingo! You’re right, and that article provides a lot of good background on the company.
So, these plates were likely for advertising posters placed in the various feed stores across the country that sold Ballard’s chicken feed. “Insurance” was a brand, and quite a red herring.1+
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